x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Prevent your child from becoming a smoker

As a price increase on cigarettes looms we look at ways of deterring teenagers from taking up the habit before it becomes a serious addiction.

Make sure you listen patiently because if you can understand the attraction, you'll be better equipped to deter your teenager. Jaime Puebla / The National
Make sure you listen patiently because if you can understand the attraction, you'll be better equipped to deter your teenager. Jaime Puebla / The National

With Dubai set to double the price of cigarettes in August, Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, the head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Health Ministry, believes the tax increase will discourage young people from smoking. Her beliefs are not unfounded. According to findings by the US-based Centres for Disease Control, every 10 per cent increase in the price of cigarettes corresponds with a seven per cent decrease in youth smoking rates.

But since parents can always do more to steer their children from harm's way, here are 10 tips to help you raise a decided non-smoker.

1. Start your campaign early

The sooner you start talking about the downsides of cigarettes, the better, especially since most children have seen someone smoking before they are five years old. "Children are naturally curious. As soon as they ask what that 'steaming stuff' is coming out of someone's mouth, you should talk about the nastiness of smoking," advises Dr Raymond Hamden, a psychologist at the Human Relations Institute, Dubai (www.hridubai.com).

2. Watch videos on YouTube

Point out the health effects of smoking. "Lung cancer, emphysema and premature ageing are all consequences of smoking," says Therese Sequeira, a parent educator at kidsFIRST, Dubai (www.parentingdubai.com). "You should highlight this to your teenager and make them aware that reduced fitness levels will restrict their sport and leisure activities." While teenagers normally turn to YouTube to watch fun videos, they're also a great resource for serious subjects. Search under "quit smoking" and you'll find numerous videos to help your teenager get to grips with the effect smoking has on the body.

3. Uncover the allure

Find out what appeals to your child about smoking and talk about it honestly. Make sure you listen patiently because if you can understand the attraction, you'll be better equipped to deter your teenager.

4. Do the maths

Sit down with your child and work out what a smoking habit will cost them on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Figure out what they might have to give up, such as designer clothes, cosmetics or movie tickets, to pay for cigarettes.

5. Develop a plan

"Calmly discuss what your teenager will say to their friends when they are offered a cigarette," suggests Sequeira. "For example, they may say they are at risk of asthma [which may be true]; training for a sport or activity that would be affected by smoking; cannot afford the cost of cigarettes - they may be saving up for something new and don't want to borrow money from others for cigarettes; or that they don't want to be controlled by a craving for nicotine."

6. Act it out

Once your teenager has decided how they will respond when offered cigarettes by their peers, try acting it out. "A parent can play the role of the friend and the teenager can be themselves," suggests Sequeira. "Encourage your teenager with praise and offer positive suggestions if needed. You can try swapping roles to give your child the opportunity to see the issue from their friend's perspective and come up with other ways they may feel pressured."

7. If you smoke, quit

Smoking is more common among teenagers whose parents smoke. "Do as I say, not as I do" is never going to be a persuasive argument. Ask your doctor about ways to stop smoking. In the meantime, explain how unhappy you are that you smoke and how difficult it is to stop.

8. Avoid lectures

Seldom does nagging or pestering get results for the right reason. "This type of control may lead to lying and hiding when trying something new, such as smoking," says Hamden. "From the early years, teach children to be critical thinkers and to weigh up the odds of their decisions with reliable information."

9. Appeal to their vanity

Teenagers are very concerned with the way they look. Talk about the fact that smoking can give you yellow teeth and affect your complexion.

10. Explain they'll miss out on the action

Discuss the fact that smoking isn't socially accepted among large groups of people and is banned in many public places, such as the metro, buses, shopping centres, cinemas and buildings.

"Point out that if your teenager wants a cigarette, he may have to interrupt an activity to go and 'have a smoke', missing out on some of the fun," says Sequeira.